AI Tools for SMB | TD stories


It wasn’t that long ago that artificial intelligence was seen as a luxury for large corporations. A promising technology out of reach for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

But those days are over. Today, there are many inexpensive and sometimes free tools available to small business owners. From chatbots to software that manages your cash flow or protects online stores from hackers, AI can be transformative for business owners looking to automate customer service, streamline operations, and enhance the customer experience.

Jeff Chan, senior manager of enterprise innovation at TD, leads a team exploring the role new technologies (such as generative AI) can play in meeting future customer needs. Generative AI – A subfield of artificial intelligence that powers the OpenAI chatbot, ChatGPT – describes algorithms used to generate new content including audio, code, images, text, simulations and videos.

Chan said the benefits of AI are already available to many small business owners and will continue to improve over time.

“Automated degrees and automated decision making are being used by small businesses today to help them manage inventory, track customers, and improve their research and development activities.”

“Thanks to the explosive growth of generative AI, I believe the way we work, think, and analyze data today will change in ways we thought were still years away.”

Of course, Chan is quick to point out that generative AI is in its early stages and that there are risks associated with the use of new technologies that small business owners should be aware of. Small business owners should evaluate these risks, as well as the terms governing the use of third-party AI systems, in relation to their own use cases, before implementing any new AI system, including Generative AI.

Here are three areas where small business owners can benefit from integrating AI into their business, if the risks are understood:

Provide human-like customer service at scale

Chan said automated responses have proven themselves to be a core element of the customer service experience. One such common technology, interactive voice response (IVR), allows telephone users to interact with a computerized telephone system through voice or a telephone keyboard.

The goal of automation is to free up time by prioritizing, managing, responding to, and resolving customer inquiries to help improve the customer experience. Today’s chatbots are limited in what they can solve.

According to Chan, this is because it is very difficult to train those chatbots to understand human or natural language. But chatbots powered by generative AI like OpenAI’s ChatGPT can understand spoken language.

“Having that capability can open up new opportunities to help solve customer service issues in a human-like way, not by pressing buttons,” Chan said.

The more opportunities that can be solved with artificial intelligence, the more time you give your human services team to focus on complex issues that benefit from more human involvement.

As AI continues to improve, any customer interaction with digital will begin to sound and feel more and more human, which is the goal when looking to create a more personalized experience, Chan said.

New insights and customer experiences from existing data

Because AI can quickly process large amounts of data, it has the ability to sift through an organization’s data to identify patterns and discover connections that might otherwise go unnoticed. According to Chan, many small business owners may not be aware that they are using AI to optimize their businesses.

“AI-driven solutions are not reserved for companies with deep pockets,” he said.

“There are now very cost-effective solutions that allow small businesses to do more with their data than ever before. The next generation of AI should be affordable, giving entrepreneurs more ways to find those points of intelligence that will help unlock the net – new revenue opportunities.”

At the same time, small business owners who want to ensure highly personalized experiences for their customers can use AI to help improve messaging based on their customers’ preferences and behavior.

However, there are some critical issues small business owners should consider when implementing AI technologies, including understanding the limitations and assumptions of any proposed technology, Chan said.

Small business owners should review the terms governing the use of any third-party AI technology, such as data impacts, privacy concerns, and intellectual property implications.

For example, on its website, Microsoft advises users of its Azure Open AI models to “carefully consider well-defined chatbot scenarios.”

“In other words, if you’re going to use AI for customer service, focus on straightforward situations like issuing refunds or checking package status,” Chan said.

Limiting the use of a chatbot to a narrow domain can help reduce the risk of unwanted or undesirable responses, but each technology and use case must be evaluated individually.

Fraud detection and cyber security

Cyber ​​threats and fraud continue to be a major threat to businesses of all sizes. According to the credit reporting agency TransUnionDigital fraud attempts in Canada are up 189% from pre-pandemic levels. at the same time, Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre In the year By 2022, they received reports of cybercrime costing victims a total of $530-million.

Businesses depend on AI to help protect them and their customers from fraud. Chan said AI-powered security can identify suspicious activity and unusual patterns in real-time, alerting employees and small business owners to take action.

As a final thought, Chan emphasized that while AI is a valuable technology in its own right, it still requires human intervention to be truly effective and help mitigate some of the risks associated with this nascent technology.

“In my opinion, nothing can be 100% automated,” Chan said.

“At some point, someone has to step in. Digital alone is not enough. Human alone is not enough. I believe a digital-human hybrid experience allows for the best customer experience.”

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